The Cubs Monday called up star infield prospect Javier Baez, one of the pillars of the farm system Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have developed since taking over the team three years ago.
Here’s what you need to know about Baez:
1. He’ll Make His Major League Debut Tuesday in Colorado
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 4, 2014
Baez, a 21-year-old infielder from Puerto Rico, is expected to join the Cubs Tuesday night, when they open a series in Denver against the Colorado Rockies.
Baez has split his time at Triple-A Iowa between shortstop and second base, and will likely play second base in the big leagues as part of a dynamic double play combination with 24-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro.
2. He’s Rated the No. 3 Prospect in the Cubs’ System
Baseball America’s mid-season prospect rankings listed Baez as the third best prospect in the Cubs system, behind fellow infielders Kris Bryant and Addison Russell.
Russell, a middle infielder, began the season with the Oakland Athletics, but was traded to the Cubs in a deal that brought pitcher Jeff Samardzija to Oakland.
Coming into the season, Baseball America rated Baez the top prospect in the Cubs’ system and the fifth best prospect in baseball.
The Cubs drafted Baez with the ninth overall pick in the draft in 2011. That was actually a season before the arrival of Epstein, but Epstein and Hoyer have made the development of players such as Baez the cornerstone of their bid to transform the Cubs from one of baseball’s worst franchises to one of its best.
Chicago’s farm system was consistently ranked among the worst in baseball as recently as three years ago and is now consistently ranked among the best thanks to players like Baez.
3.He’s Been on Fire Since He Started Working With Manny Ramirez
After a slow start to the season, Baez has had a torrid July. And as CBS Sports notes, his hot streak has coincided with the arrival of former All-Star slugger Manny Ramirez, who came on board in late June as a player-coach for the Tripe-A Iowa Cubs.
CBS’ Mike Axisa writes:
In 104 Triple-A games this season, Baez is hitting .260/.323/.510 with 24 doubles and 23 homeruns. He hit .229/.285/.424 with 11 homers and a 33.7 percent strikeout rate in his first 66 games of the year, but has put up a .315/.384/.657 batting line with 12 homers and a 23.8 percent strikeout in 38 games since. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the hot streak started when player-coach Manny Ramirez arrived.
Baez described his relationship with Ramirez to MLB.com:
Once I get to the field we go straight to the cage and hit and hit and hit. He’s always doing something. He likes to hit a lot. He likes to talk to other guys. He likes to work.
We get to the field 12:30, 1 and around 1:30 we are in the cage working on something,” Baez said. “He’s just trying to help on what we’re doing in each at-bat. He talks to everybody. He’s just one of the guys on the team, that’s how he is. He’s trying to help everybody.
4.Baez Hit a 2-Run Homer in the MLB Futures Game
Baez’s power was on full display at the Futures Game prior to last month’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis. Playing for the World team against the United States, he hit a two-run, opposite-field homer to right field, accounting for both of the World team’s runs in a 3-2 loss.
5. The Cubs Gave Him a $2.6 Million Signing Bonus
The Cubs signed Baez to a minor league deal with a $2.6 million signing bonus in 2011.